1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Arles

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ARLES, a town of south-eastern France, capital of an arrondissement in the department of Bouches-du-Rhône, 54 m. N.W. of Marseilles by rail. Pop. (1906) 16,191. A canal unites Arles with the harbour of Bouc on the Mediterranean. Arles stands on the left bank of the Rhone, just below the point at which the river divides to form its delta. A tubular bridge unites it with the suburb of Trinquetaille on the opposite bank. The town is hemmed in on the east by the railway line from Lyons to Marseilles, on the south by the Canal de Craponne. Its streets are narrow and irregular, and, away from the promenades which border it on the south, there is little animation. In the centre of the town stand the Place de la République, a spacious square overlooked by the hôtel de ville, the museum, and the old cathedral of St Trophime, the finest Romanesque church in Provence. Founded in the 7th century, St Trophime has been several times rebuilt, and was restored in 1870. Its chief portal, which dates from the 12th century, is a masterpiece of graceful arrangement and rich carving. The interior, plain in itself, contains interesting sculpture. The choir opens into a beautiful cloister, the massive vaulting of which is supported on heavy piers adorned with statuary, between which intervene slender columns arranged in pairs and surmounted by delicately carved capitals. Two of the galleries are Romanesque, while two are Gothic. Arles has two other churches of the Romanesque period, and others of later date. The hôtel de ville, a building of the 17th century, contains the library. Its clock tower, surmounted by a statue of Mars, dates from the previous century. The museum, occupying an old Gothic church, is particularly rich in Roman remains and in early Christian sarcophagi; there is also a museum of Provençal curiosities. The tribunal of commerce and the communal college are the chief public institutions. Arles is not a busy town and its port is of little importance. There are, however, flour mills, oil and soap works, and the Paris-Lyon-Méditerranée Railway Company have large workshops. Sheep-breeding is a considerable industry in the vicinity. The women of Arles have long enjoyed a reputation for marked beauty, but the distinctive type is fast disappearing owing to their intermarriage with strangers who have immigrated to the town.

Arles still possesses many monuments of Roman architecture and art, the most remarkable being the ruins of an amphitheatre (the Arénes), capable of containing 25,000 spectators, which, in the 11th and 12th centuries, was flanked with massive towers, of which three are still standing. There are also a theatre, in which, besides the famous Venus of Arles, discovered in 1651, many other remains have been found; an ancient obelisk of a single block, 47 ft. high, standing since 1676 in the Place de la République; the ruins of the palace of Constantine, the forum, the thermae and the remains of the Roman ramparts and of aqueducts. There is, besides, a Roman cemetery known as the Aliscamps (Elysii Campi), consisting of a short avenue once bordered by tombs, of which a few still remain.

The ancient town, Arelate, was an important place at the time of the invasion of Julius Caesar, who made it a settlement for his veterans. It was pillaged in A.D. 270, but restored and embellished by Constantine, who made it his principal residence, and founded what is now the suburb of Trinquetaille. Under Honorius, it became the seat of the prefecture of the Gauls and one of the foremost cities in the western empire. Its bishopric founded by St Trophimus in the 1st century, was in the 5th century the primatial see of Gaul; it was suppressed in 1790. After the fall of the Roman empire the city passed into the power of the Visigoths, and rapidly declined. It was plundered in 730 by the Saracens, but in the 10th century became the capital of the kingdom of Arles (see below). In the 12th century it was a free city, governed by a podesta and consuls after the model of the Italian republics, which it also emulated in commerce and navigation. In 1251 it submitted to Charles I. of Anjou, and from that time onwards followed the fortunes of Provence. A number of ecclesiastical synods have been held at Arles, as in 314 (see below), 354, 452 and 475.

See V. Clair, Monuments d’Arles (1837); J. J. Estrangin, Description de la ville d’Arles (1845); F. Beissier, Le Pays d’Arles (1889); Roger Peyre, Nîmes, Arles, Orange (1903).  (R. Tr.) 

Synod of Arles (314).—As negotiations held at Rome in October 313 had failed to settle the dispute between the Catholics and the Donatists, the emperor Constantine summoned the first general council of his western half of the empire to meet at Arles by the 1st of August following. The attempt of Seeck to date the synod 316 presupposes that the emperor was present in person, which is highly improbable. Thirty-three bishops are included in the most authentic list of signatures, among them three from Britain,—York, London and “Colonia Londinensium” (probably a corruption of Lindensium, or Lincoln, rather than of Legionensium or Caerleon-On-Usk). The twenty-two canons deal chiefly with the discipline of clergy and people. Husbands of adulterous wives are advised not to remarry during the lifetime of the guilty party. Reiteration of baptism in the name of the Trinity is forbidden. For the consecration of a bishop at least three bishops are required. It is noteworthy that British representatives assented to Canon I., providing that Easter be everywhere celebrated on the same day: the later divergence between Rome and the Celtic church is due to improvements in the supputatio Romana adopted at Rome in 343 and subsequently.

For the canons see Mansi ii. 471 ff.; Bruns ii. 107 ff.; Lauchert 26 ff. See also W. Smith and S. Cheetham, Dictionary of Christian Antiquities (Boston, 1875), i. 141 ff. (contains also notices of later synods at Arles); W. Bright, Chapters of Early English Church History (2nd edition, Oxford, 1888), 9 f.; Herzog-Hauck, Realencyklopädie (3rd edition), ii. 59, x. 238 ff.; W. Möller, Kirchengeschichte (2nd edition by H. von Schubert, Tübingen, 1902), i. 417. For full titles see Council.  (W. W. R.*)